Barkley is the second Giant to collect the honor in the past five years. Odell Beckham Jr. won the award for his rookie season in 2014.
It is not often that the No. 2 overall pick lives up to the hype immediately. But Barkley might have exceeded general manager Dave Gettleman’s “touched by the hand of God” declaration from the moment he stepped on the field. His first preseason carry (which went for 39 yards and some teammates admitted convinced them the hype was real) flashed the potential.
Barkley led the NFL with 2,024 yards from scrimmage this season. He was the third rookie in history (joining Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James) to top 2,000 yards. He set a rookie running back record with 91 receptions, finished second in the league with 1,307 rushing yards, scored 15 total touchdowns and reached the Pro Bowl in his first professional season.
“He’s a different breed,” Dickerson said late in the season
The NFL noticed. It took all of one game for Barkley to start stating his case for rookie of the year.
Barkley had a 65-yard touchdown run in the opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It prompted veteran defensive end Calais Campbell to say after that game, “OK, if he can stay healthy, he might one day be a Hall of Famer.”
Barkley vs. Mayfield made for an interesting choice. Mayfield set the rookie record with 27 touchdown passes, which he accomplished in 13 starts. The Browns went from winless in 2017 to a seven-win team in 2018.
Mayfield was at the center of that turnaround. He was the most valuable rookie given the position he plays. But Barkley was the best rookie. He was immediately one of the best players at his position the second he stepped on the field. The same couldn’t be said of Mayfield.
That is why Barkley would’ve had the vote of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Andrew Adams over Mayfield. Adams played the Giants and Browns this season and was a teammate of Barkley’s last spring and summer with the Giants.
“I would say Saquon,” Adams answered when asked who he thought deserved the honor. “I just think he’s more explosive. He doesn’t have the ball in his hands every play like Baker does, but when he does, I feel he’s more of a threat than Baker, even though Baker is a quarterback.
“I’d rather see Baker with the ball in his hands than Saquon with the ball in his hands.”
That says a lot, considering the high praise Adams had for Mayfield as well.